How do you deal with regular work by 1 client as a freelance translator?
Thread poster: Marlon Aviz

Marlon Aviz
Brazil
Local time: 05:23
English to Portuguese
Jan 17

I'm kinda new in the translation industry so I was wondering if I could get some help from more experienced translators on this.

A client wants to work with me by sending me regular work. This means I would get project after project to be translated. On this case, should I quote separately for each project (quote proportional to word count) or should I set a hourly rate (quote proportional to project size and complexity)? Should I also ask the client for the project details before accepting it (for each project) or even better: ask him if I can take a look at the project to analyze terminology, complexity, size etc?

I translate from English to Portuguese and the client requested a test translation for English to Portuguese and also Portuguese to English, should I do both or just the one I work with (EN to PT)?


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Carole Wolfe  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:23
Member (2006)
Russian to English
+ ...
Regular work Jan 17

Hello, Marlon,

First about the test: I think you should only do the test from English to Portuguese. You probably feel most comfortable translating into your native language, and that's what most agencies/clients want. Translating from Portuguese into English would put you at an unfair advantage.

About your other questions: Ask the client if the projects are in the same field and if they have similar formatting. I would charge per word. I don't think many clients would agree to paying you per hour because they would have to take your word about how much time you spend on the translation. Your client probably has a idea of how he wants to pay you. You can work that out with him.

It would be a good idea to look at a project before you agree to translate it because it might be way out of your comfort zone, and it would take too long to translate, causing you not to make much money on it. So, it might be a good idea to insist on your having the option to reject a project if it seems out of your range.

I have a regular client (an agency), who sends me medical documents dealing with applying for disability. I charge per word. I have the option of rejecting any file they send me, and I do do that very infrequently if the doctor's handwriting is ridiculously bad.

Regular work would give you a steady income. Do you know if your client is a good payer? Is he on ProZ's Blue Board?

Good luck on your test.


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Marlon Aviz
Brazil
Local time: 05:23
English to Portuguese
TOPIC STARTER
Regular Work Jan 17

Hi Carole, thanks for taking the time to help me.

About the hourly payment, I do agree that the client would have to take my word for it, but nowadays we have time-tracking software like Top Tracker and Screenshot Monitor. These apps can take screenshots of our screen, track the time spent on each program etc to prove to the client the hours we put into the project. Some of these apps can even invoice the client for the hours spent on a project.

When you say "similar formatting" what exactly do you mean? Document type, handwriting, file format etc?

When you say no to a medical document you receive from your client, because the handwriting is too bad, you still get other documents right? Its not like the agency won't work with you anymore just because you rejected a document (and for a good reason).

This client I was talking about found me on another website and he has 1 review only (positive one), its not exactly an agency, its another type of company.

Does regular work means long-term contract? Do you have some kind of "long-term contract" with your client (agency) that sends you medical documents? How would that work?

Sorry for the amount of questions, but I've researched on the internet and can't find a satisfying answer and its really helpful when someone more experienced than me answer them.


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Miguel Carmona  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:23
English to Spanish
Jan 17



[Edited at 2017-01-17 18:35 GMT]


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Michael Newton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:23
Member (2003)
Japanese to English
+ ...
Regular work Jan 17

Do not depend on regular work from a single client. Situations and moods change. You should also cultivate several other clients so that you are not left high and dry.

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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 08:23
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
My take Jan 17

When I started out translating some 30 years ago, I had just a single excellent client: a Belgian translation agency who gave me regular work (circa 150 pages every month) very well paid and on time until suddenly for no fault of mine their contract was cancelled and I found myself with no work at all. It was quite a blow and I learned my lesson the hard way: so, I advise you to diversify and not to put all your eggs in one basket!

Regarding the test, for quality reasons I decided early on to translate exclusively into my native language (European Portuguese) even if I have lived in Belgium for 30 years and French is my second language.

Another thing experience has taught me is to never take more than I can chew. That’s why I never accept a project without having a good look at it first!

Hope this helps and good luck!


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 09:23
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Regular clients are a fine if you have enough of them Jan 17

Regular clients are often the most profitable, but you should still insist on seeing every document, or at least having a very good idea of what it is about.
After a time, you get to know what to expect in certain categories, so there is less risk in accepting 'more of the same'. You should still reserve the right to turn down a project, when you have seen it, if there is any problem you cannot solve.

Don't let a regular client fill too much of your time. It is better to have a handful of regular clients. Prepare them, too, for the fact that you may not always be available, so they should have another translator who can take over when you are busy, on holiday, ill or whatever. It will happen sooner or later!

As long as you can strike the right balance, there are many advantages in getting to know what the client expects, learning their terminology and their routines, and knowing there is work in the pipeline. Often you will have more or less standard word rates, or rates for each type of work. With regular clients you can work faster and more efficiently, so you make a better profit. Don't forget to charge extra, if applicable, for formatting or any other tasks that take time in addition to the word rate!

You can often save time on administration with regular clients, too, sending invoices once a month rather than for every project, and you will not need to check on them every time when you know the agreement is functioning smoothly.

Be prepared, all the same, for clients to disappear, lose contracts with their end client, or simply decide they prefer another translator for no particular reason. The market changes, project managers leave, and other things affect a business relationship. Make the best of it while it lasts!


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Texte Style
Local time: 09:23
French to English
I agree Jan 18

I basically agree with everyone here.

Only work into your native language, it's a basic rule in our profession. You could perhaps recommend someone to work the other way and share terminology with them so that everything is coherent, perhaps even suggest mutual proofreading.

Always reserve the right to refuse just in case it turns out to be something you can't do, again perhaps recommend someone to handle those jobs, there'll be less likelihood of them stealing all future work.

They might try to make you accept a lower rate because of the work being very similar. Don't blindly agree, you must first consider whether this means that you really can work faster. Bear in mind that you may have to refuse better-paid work to honour this agreement.

I don't see where you live, but in many countries, if you are working more or less full time for a client, you could have your status changed to that of employee, with the advantages of paid leave, job security etc.


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Preston Decker  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:23
Member (2013)
Chinese to English
PT to EN with disclosure to client Jan 18

Marlon Aviz wrote:


I translate from English to Portuguese and the client requested a test translation for English to Portuguese and also Portuguese to English, should I do both or just the one I work with (EN to PT)?


I would disclose to the client the fact that your native language is Portuguese, but also state that you believe your written English to be at a near-native level, and let the client determine whether you should take both tests. If your post is indicative of your English writing abilities, you write well enough in English to produce translations that would only require a relatively quick proofread before submission. Others will disagree with this, but I would not limit yourself to EN to PT if your written English is as good as it seems.

The "into your native tongue only" paradigm is appropriate for the vast majority of translators (including myself) who do not write well in their second language, but inappropriate if your writing is close to native level--IMHO, your enhanced understanding of the source makes your skills just as, if not more, valuable than a native English-speaking translator. The translation industry is not an easy one to establish yourself in, and you would be foolish to abandon half of your potential client/project base at the outset.

Edit: The caveat I should add is that you need to be honest about your abilities, especially if working into your second language. Translating general business correspondence is much different than a legal contract, and even if your English writing is good enough for the former, it may not be sufficient for the latter. The good news is that your client's test should help towards determining whether your English writing abilities are at a professional level--this is another reason why I would advise you to take both tests.


[Edited at 2017-01-18 15:22 GMT]


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 09:23
English to Croatian
+ ...
Their promise or something more solid? Jan 18

Do you only have their promise about regular work/regular projects and now they want you to do the test first? Once everything gets rolling, please do get back to this topic to inform us whether you are receiving "project after project" work from this agency, in reality.

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Preston Decker  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:23
Member (2013)
Chinese to English
False promises Jan 18

Lingua 5B wrote:

Do you only have their promise about regular work/regular projects and now they want you to do the test first? Once everything gets rolling, please do get back to this topic to inform us whether you are receiving "project after project" work from this agency, in reality.


One of my biggest pet peeves is the "project after project" initial job offer. Never turns into anything remotely close to this. I received an email last week for a "massive" project offering an "unlimited" amount of work for three to six months. The agency used this a pretext to ask for a free sample test, which I turned down. Good riddance.


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 09:23
English to Croatian
+ ...
Yes. Jan 18

Preston Decker wrote:

The agency used this a pretext to ask for a free sample test, which I turned down. Good riddance.


But it's easy for a beginner to fall for this, they usually do. If an agency says "if you have a €500 CAT tool, we offer a possibility of long-term cooperation", a beginner is likely to buy the tool for this purpose and never see any work from them (or perhaps only one project at best).


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Preston Decker  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:23
Member (2013)
Chinese to English
Absolutely Jan 18

Lingua 5B wrote:

Preston Decker wrote:

The agency used this a pretext to ask for a free sample test, which I turned down. Good riddance.


But it's easy for a beginner to fall for this, they usually do. If an agency says "if you have a €500 CAT tool, we offer a possibility of long-term cooperation", a beginner is likely to buy the tool for this purpose and never see any work from them (or perhaps only one project at best).


You're right, and I fell for more than my fair share of these a few years ago, although luckily not to the tune of a 500 Euro CAT tool.


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Marlon Aviz
Brazil
Local time: 05:23
English to Portuguese
TOPIC STARTER
I learned a lot Jan 19

Thanks guys, I learned a lot already with only one thread. Its great to have such a helpful community, I was starting to feel lost as a beginner in this industry.

The client sent me a message in Skype. It seemed as an attempt to negotiate. I asked the client if the projects would be from the same field (I specialize in Computer Software and related fields), I also asked if it was some kind of long-term contract and if I could quote each project separately using a per-source-word-translated rate. He basically said: "We will do this skill test to check your accuracy, then you check the file content and send me your rates and then we'll start with regular work." I also said that I created a simple portfolio webpage with one of the translations I've already done, so I questioned the necessity for the skill test, considering I already have a portfolio and some sample translations, but I did the skill test anyway.

I didn't get the job. I got rejected. I asked for the feedback for my interview and/or skill test so I could know what to improve but I didn't get a reply.

Maybe I was rude in questioning the skill test or maybe I seemed inexperienced when asking so many questions? I am inexperienced though, because I don't have many years in this industry, but I can prove to the client I'm technically capable, using my portfolio, previous work, skill tests etc. That should matter I think.

@Preston Decker thank you very much for the encouragement to translate into English as well, I never thought my English was good enough to work both ways in the English-Portuguese language pair. I was kinda insecure with my Pt to En, so hearing that feedback from an English native speaker is very motivating.

As you said, the client promised regular job, asked me for a skill test, I did it, got rejected and never heard from him again.

Anyway, I learned to not rely on only one client, because if you lose that single client you have, you're suddenly without work. More clients also increase the chance of being recommended and referenced to other prospective clients.

I also learned that I should have the right to verify what I'm going to translate, so I can be sure I can deal with the formatting, document type, terminology etc and if I can't I should have the right to refuse this project, but make myself available for another project from the same client. Taking a job I can't finish is worse than not taking the job at all. I'd rather have no reputation than a bad one.

Regarding the CAT tools, I'm currently using OmegaT, its free and open-source. When I get established in the industry I may switch to Trados, MemoQ or Wordfast. Right now, there is no need, OmegaT is working just fine.

Last but not least, I'm not sure about translating only into our native language as translators. It may seem tempting as we feel much more confident with our native language so we feel safe to guarantee top-quality work, but as @Preston Decker said, we might actually be technically capable of translating into the other side of the language pair, we just need to try/test. If you pass, you open a lot of new opportunities.

[Edited at 2017-01-19 07:27 GMT]


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